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NMPF Commends Farmers Speaking at House Farm Bill Listening Session

February 14, 2023

NMPF commended three NMPF cooperative members who spoke up for dairy producers today at a bipartisan House Agriculture Committee farm bill listening session held in Tulare, CA. California dairy producers Brad Bosch, Jared Fernandes and Tony Lopes each discussed farmer needs as lawmakers begin work on a reauthorization of farm programs due later this year.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-PA, presided over the session, accompanied by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, and Representatives David Valadao, R-CA, Jim Costa, D-CA, John Duarte, R-CA, Jimmy Panetta, D-CA, Doug LaMalfa, R-CA, Salud Carbajal, D-CA, David Rouzer, R-NC, and John Rose, R-TN. Held in one of the nation’s biggest milk-producing counties, dairy was top-of-mind as farmers and lawmakers discussed critical agricultural policies.

“Just as NMPF appreciates the work dairy producers do every day to nourish our nation and the world, we are grateful to each of our members for taking time out of their day to attend this important session,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “We also thank Chairman Thompson, Speaker McCarthy, Representatives Valadao and Costa, and their colleagues for hosting today’s farm bill listening session.”

NMPF cooperative member farmers touched on critical issues NMPF is hoping the House Agriculture Committee will consider in crafting the 2023 farm bill, including key matters related to the Federal Milk Marketing Order system, the Dairy Margin Coverage program and other risk management tools, and the important sustainability opportunities that farm bill conservation programs provide to dairy producers of all sizes.

Among farmer comments:

Brad Bosch, southern California dairy farmer, California Dairies, Inc. and Dairy Farmers of America member-owner: “The dairy industry is working hard to reach a consensus on the Federal Milk Marketing Order improvements that will be submitted to USDA for consideration in a national federal order hearing.  Of most importance is returning to the ‘higher of’ Class I mover. The current formula is blamed for a nearly $1 billion loss over the last few years.

“Discussions in the industry are also focused on potential changes to the make allowance.  While make allowance changes will also go through a federal order process, the industry lacks the data to make good decisions on this issue. I hope that the next farm bill will include language giving USDA to authority to conduct mandatory plant cost studies so that we better understand the real cost of dairy manufacturing.”

Jared Fernandes, third-generation dairy farmer, Tipton, CA, Land O’Lakes, Inc. member-owner: “The 2018 Farm Bill made tremendous improvements to the dairy safety net, including through the Dairy Margin Coverage program. These changes provided better coverage levels, lower premiums and more flexibility for dairy farmers. We hope to build off of the improvements to both DMC and dairy insurance programs in the 2023 Farm Bill to continue providing dairy producers with straightforward, easy-to-use risk management tools.

“Next, we need bipartisan collaboration that encourages the adoption of conservation practices at scale. There is significant opportunity for farmers looking to utilize the USDA conservation programs, and the farm bill presents an opportunity to support and streamline these programs to make them easier for farmers to use and we encourage you to consider allowing the private sector, including farmer cooperatives and ag retailers, to extend the conservation delivery system.”

Tony Lopes, fourth-generation dairy farmer, Gustine, CA, CDI and DFA member-owner: “Across the California dairy industry, we largely view the 2018 Farm Bill as a legislative victory. It provided the much-needed safety net programs, the Dairy Margin Coverage as well as Dairy Revenue Protection, that has worked well for us through these unprecedented times through the pandemic and supply chain constraints. However, due to inflationary pressures, constraints related to how much milk volume can be enrolled in these programs as well as regionally different cost structures in calculating the milk-to-feed margin within the DMC, $9.50 is not the same as it was years ago, and it’s different in every region and every shape and size of operator. We just ask to echo Speaker McCarthy’s words with the opportunity to produce dairy on a level playing field with other regions across the country.

“Additionally, when we look at the Dairy Revenue Protection program, we ask that our friends in the dairy industry be afforded the same opportunity as our friends in the livestock sector to protect at 100% price coverage level, similar to that of the Livestock Risk Protection program. And lastly, recognizing the large component of the farm bill that is nutrition assistance. We just ask that you continue to prioritize U.S. dairy and beef production throughout that program.”